By Douglas W. Motley
Residents in the vicinity of Crest Park woke up to a soggy surprise on Tuesday, Aug. 9 when an aging, high pressure water main belonging to the Crestline-Lake Arrowhead Water Agency (CLAWA) burst forth in a gusher around 8:30 a.m., sending some 200,000 gallons of water rushing down a steep hillside above the normally quiet neighborhood.
According to CLAWA General Manager Jennifer Spindler, workers who rushed to the scene were able to cap the leak by 9:10 a.m., stopping the river of mud, water and debris just short of Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church.
“It is amazing that we only lost 200,000 gallons!” Spindler said. “Even more amazing is that our field staff was able to turn off the mainline within 40 minutes.”
Spindler attributed the leak to inappropriate construction techniques when the pipeline, which runs from Cedarpines Park to Green Valley Lake, was installed in the 1960s. “It was poor workmanship. A section of the pipe may have been nicked by a rock or boulder when it was installed,” Spindler said, noting that current construction methods call for surrounding the pipe with various types of sand and gravel and then backfilling with “clean dirt,” dirt that is devoid of rocks, much like the soil used by a Caltrans subcontractor to repair a caved-in segment of Highway 18 last winter.
According to the agency’s website www.clawa.org, the Crestline-Lake Arrowhead Water Agency, a governmental, public agency, was created in 1962 by the California state legislature to provide supplemental water across the San Bernardino Mountains. CLAWA’s boundaries span more than 50,000 acres and its revenues come from water sales, connection fees, standby charges and taxes. The agency provides wholesale and retail treated water from Silverwood Lake across the mountain from Silverwood Lake to Green Valley. Within this area there are more than 20 water districts and camps depending on wholesale, supplemental water.
When asked to put a dollar figure on the water loss, Spindler said, “It’s just a water loss; we don’t get any water from the state water project. It all depends on what rainfall we get. This water will go into the ground and might end up in Lake Arrowhead.” Meanwhile, Spindler urged area residents to continue conserving water.